Looking for an autograph? Sign up for competition

KIDS' CORNER

June 05, 1994|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Contributing Writer

When the clock strikes 6 o'clock at Camden Yards, the race begins to take home a small piece of major-league baseball.

Hundreds of children sprint to line up with pen in hand and eyes glued to the players on the field.

They yell, wave with outstretched arms and even make signs to gain the attention of a player for one specific goal -- an autograph. The main cluster ranges from the beginning of the Orioles' dugout along the backstop to the visitors' dugout.

In the age of setting prices on autographs, most fans say they just wanted a reminder of their meeting with a major-leaguer.

While the beginning of this ritual probably dates to the beginning of sports in general, obtaining an autograph is still an inexact science.

"Anybody that comes by, you yell out their name," Josh Rosenblatt, 14, said. "If you don't know who it is, you yell anything to get them to look over at you. A lot of times they don't look over."

While waiting in the bleacher section before the gates opened, Josh caught a fly ball by Cal Ripken during batting practice. He was trying to get the ball, the most common object asked to be autographed, signed by Ripken.

According to Josh, the best spot for autographs was right next to the home plate screen after the players are finished batting practice. Another favorite area is just to the side of the dugout to catch the players going on and off the field.

But there still is only a 50 percent chance of success, the young fans say. "It depends a lot on their mood," Josh said. "You get mostly coaches and backup players."

Most players cannot afford to spend the time to give autographs to every fan, but some are more fortunate in getting more of the popular players. Gina Ciardullo, 11, and her brother John, 10, have gotten signatures from Orioles Brady Anderson and Mike Devereaux and Toronto Blue Jays All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar in a couple of trips to the ballpark.

Gina, John and their friend Jessica Marble, 12, find that a group effort is more effective in getting players. They have player signatures on hats, balls and magazines.

"We all scream at the top of our lungs at them," Gina said. "But the best thing is to make signs. We've made signs saying, 'We're with the Orioles' or 'We love Brady.' "

The screaming, the lunging and the creative luring is the price for that special memory.

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